I’ve been reading a lot of really good books lately, and have wanted to talk/write about them, so I’ve decided to do an occasional book review on Home for Two. My taste in reading is very diverse, from YA Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian, Mystery, Historical Fiction, you name it, I like it… However, I don’t mean to say that I like every book I’ve ever read, because that is definitely not the case.
My mom had suggested that I read The Dovekeepers, and I was hesitant at first, but I am so glad I took her recommendation!
The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman, is told as a multiple first person narrative, from the points of view of four different women, centering around the Siege of Masada. The book begins from the point of view of Yael, the Assassin’s Daughter (love her name), a young Jewish woman with fiery hair, who has struggled, from birth, with her father’s rejection. I struggled a bit too, when I began reading this book, because even though it was the beginning of a very richly woven story, I couldn’t get past the Hebrew words, and old traditions. Yael’s narrative sees her lose her brother (Amram), also an assassin and member of the Sicarii, to exile. Soon after she is forced to flee Jerusalem as well, with her hateful father, and his fellow assassin. Yael’s transformation during her desert wanderings is riveting, and my heart ached for her pain. After the death of their companions, Yael and her father are found by other members of the Sicarii who were searching for them at Amram’s orders, and brought to Masada, where Yael joins a group of women who tend to the doves. At what felt like the climax of Yael’s story, Hoffman turns away from her and the tale continues from the point of view of Revka, the Baker’s wife.
Revka’s story takes the reader back in time, to her own exodus from Jerusalem, the death of her husband, and the tragic events which caused her two young grandchildren to lose the power of speech. Her story comes back to the “present” (where we left off with Yael) and explores her relationship with the other Dovekeepers, as well as her relationship with her son-in-law. Revka, to me, was a very traditional mother figure, who cares deeply for those in her custody, including Yael and her son. As with Yael’s story, I felt that just as I was learning who Revka really is, and how far she would go to protect those she loves, Hoffman changes narrators once more, to Aziza, the Warrior’s Beloved.
Aziza’s point of view was, above and beyond, my favorite. I identified with her for many reasons, one of which is that I am an older sister to a younger sister, and we have been fortunate to be best friends all of our lives. Also, I have always been a bit of a tomboy, as Aziza is. As with Revka, Aziza’s story takes the reader back in time, and shares a back story to color our perception of the character. Aziza has a secret, and even though I would love to write more detail about her story, I don’t want to spoil the surprise (at least, the surprise that I felt) over her secret. Needless to say, she is a strong woman, who is stuck in a world where women are second class citizens. Hoffman then brings us to a close with the point of view of Aziza’s mother, Shirah, the Witch of Moab.
At this point in the book, we have seen a lot of Shirah from the other people’s points of view, but know little about her past, and what motivates her. Shirah’s story is one of ancient magic and mysticism. Her story broke my heart in so many ways, but was also enlivening, because she found a way to survive, to do what needed to be done, and to help the women around her.
I have read other reviews that describe Hoffman’s story as “a lot of hot air” (from Goodreads) but I enjoyed the beautifully crafted language, and the strong women characters. I don’t think that this story is for everyone, but I thought it was delightful. Each woman represented a different kind of strength, and I loved each of them for different reasons.
Have you read it? What did you think??